Monday, February 3, 2014

Red Trolley race report

The first major So Cal race weekend has come and gone. My post-race reflections are usually more removed, but intense, large field racing deserves a somewhat immediate race report. The last three years I've had to work during Red Trolley and have had the Boulevard Saturday off. So I've survived the cold temps and the early wake ups and those freaking hills to struggle through an early season road race. Fun? Not so much, unless suffering through hills and cold on a bike is fun to you. Don't get me wrong, after finishing I was always happy. Happy to be done.

coming out of the last turn
Red Trolley 2014 was an interesting year for the women. They added a 3-4 field, but it wasn't separated. So the race was a 50 min combined field of 1-3 and 3-4, thus giving me {a cat 3} the choice of which event I wanted to enter. The course also was moved to the other side of the road to the Cyclovets course, which I've won on before {and doesn't include a "hill"}. The race was supposed to start at 3pm {apparently women cyclist don't watch the Super Bowl?} but was delayed due to a crash at the finish of the previous men's race. We all had a bit of an extended warmup on course, and Lynne, Sabine, Kim, Deanna and I discussed some tactics. All of which would've worked in a small 3-4 field, but combining the fields proved to change tactics to "hang on".

60 women were on the start line, which I believe is the largest race I've competed against. Brentwood usually has around 50ish, but I was stoked to get in the mix and I knew it was going to be fast from the start. The Skyflash/Holiday Rock/Zoca {for easier terms I'll refer to them as the dragons} had the largest team in the field with over 15 girls and jumped on the gas. Monster Media had maybe 5-8, SC Velo maybe 5, and a couple of other teams in the 3-5 range like us. The first 10 min of any crit for me are Hell. I'm constantly looking at the clock time on the computer and wondering how I'm going to survive 50 min if I'm dying at 4 min in. I was mid to back of pack for most of the beginning, but was noticing some sketchy riding, and didn't want to miss a break in the field if a surge were to happen. I found a wheel and motored up to the front where I sat-in {working much harder than I was in the back} for a lap or two and realized this was too much work and not worth the payoff. The wind on the backside was significant and it would take a monster TT'er of a girl to get a break and make it stick and she'd definitely need people to work with. At this point, I didn't see a break sticking, so I moved back to a more comfortable spot {sucking less wind and more wheel} mid-pack.

this is a more realistic face.
not sure where the smile came from.
i swear i was sucking air the entire race
The rest of the race for me was about energy conservation. I would take the downhill corner fast and if I saw a wheel, move up through the pack or on the side. I'd try and take the last corner wide and conserve energy pedaling through and trying not to brake. And on the start/finish stretch I'd go into energy conservation mode. Not worrying about primes or trying any energy sucking move-up tactics, I tucked in and hung on to the wheel in front of me. It was a tail wind section, but it would usually get strung out and I had no interest in working through this section. I'd drink {APX} at the end of the start/finish stretch at the top of the hill and then settle back in on the downhill looking for that perfect line to move up.

I had planned to take a gel at 25-30 min in, thinking it was going to be a 50min race, but at this point they put out the lap cards {6 to go} and I was pissed this wasn't announced ahead of time {shortened race, but I should've known with the crash and all}. If I eat one now, I'll puke it out at the finish. Okay, no Gu today, as I sucked down more APX. After the lap cards come out there is always a sudden rush of people making extra efforts to get to the front and the front gets bunched and then surges. I sat in, near the back of the dwindled field and asked Kim how she was doing {racing her 3rd crit against a women's pro field, sticking in like the badass Moment lady she is}, she responded in an almost sad, "I'm okay" mopey voice. I should've been more encouraging but mustered a stick in there, conserve energy response. Kim - get excited! {in an energy conserving way}

into the final turn on Erin's wheel
turning
I made my move with 2 to go and hopped on a outside wheel after the start/finish line and into the downhill. I nudged my way over into the strung out peleton and was probably sitting 10th. We stayed pretty much together for the next lap and went into the final lap. On the windy backside I was sitting 7th in a string of girls and was getting nervous about getting mobbed {and blocked in} from both sides, but no one wanted to do work! Then I saw some yellow off my left side and knew I needed to hop on that train. Dragon lady Jo was leading out Erin, and I grabbed her wheel. Jo made her effort up the incline and Erin was telling her to hang on. She peeled and Erin pulled me through the last corner, I'm sitting 2nd wheel.
at the apex looking through the corner
The sprint is long, but not that long, but I always go through this annoying debate in my head:

Which gear do I want to be in? {progress down the cassette, decide it's too hard, go back up a couple, and then back down 1} When should I go? Should I wait for someone to come around, jump on their wheel and then try and out sprint? Should I go now? Now?

Okay, Now! As I jumped and was standing, my front wheel hit a crack in the road and bumped it into a slight wobble, I managed to stay up and pedaled through it. Also, I think the lead out train behind me may have started their sprint a couple meters back, thus transitioning to more speed before me. The Monster Media girl who out sprinted me came up on my right side and I knew I didn't have it in me. It wasn't negative self doubt, it was one of those thoughts were I knew I was going to have to freaking work hard for second and I was absolutely thrilled I was in that spot. I tucked in, stayed standing for as long as I could and then sat down and spun as fast as I could and threw my bike over the line just before the InCycle girl came up on my inside.

I look pissed but I'm just so relieved I didn't get nipped at the line
by the girl to my left
I managed second in a Cat 1-3 field of women and was proud of where my sprint is at this early in the season. I have a lot of work to do to get stronger, especially when the races get longer or any hillier than Sunday. And we need to figure out how to better work together so I can help my teammates across the line too!

Cat 1-3 podium
Me, Kim, and Deanna
Kyle raced and in his usual fashion; he worked hard to bridge the gap on what looked like a solid group. By the time he got there the group was having a meltdown and they unfortunately got caught with not enough time to recover. But he stayed up, and worked smart throughout the race staying near the front.

Sherpa love before the race
yeah, he's pretty badass
Not sure what's next. Work schedule is dictating the racing schedule {yes even a bike shop employee doesn't get to ride all the time - someone has to work the weekends!} and my sister is having her first baby TOMORROW! I'm so excited to be an auntie!! Kyle and I are planning on visiting the new little man in Phoenix in two weeks, and the Valley of the Sun stage race happens to fall on that weekend and I'm also heading out there in March when my mom comes back to visit again. 

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